The Cutting Edge: Brett Gow, 43, CRM Strategist

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CRM is a buzz phrase of this marketing millennium, yet even customer relationship management experts have fallen victim to the economic downturn.

Brett Gow, 43, has worn the hat of agency VP at WPP Group's Impiric (now Wunderman) and senior VP at Omnicom Group's Rapp Collins Worldwide. He's also worked at direct shop Bronner Slosberg Humphrey (now Digitas); was marketing director at various banks; and has been a marketing and technology consultant. In June, Mr. Gow lost his job as senior VP in charge of developing CRM strategies at Rapp Collins, Dallas, after surviving several waves of staff reductions.

Mr. Gow has endured other job cuts. In 1995, he was laid off from a banking software company during a downsizing. Before joining Rapp in June 2000, he lost a job at Impiric after its failed effort to plant itself as a CRM specialist.

There were "different reasons but the same end" for his departures from Impiric and Rapp, Mr. Gow says. "At Impiric, the failure was disproportionally internally driven," citing management and implementation shortcomings. "At Rapp, it was disproportionally externally driven" because the economy tanked.

Mr. Gow, ever an optimist, does not feel down on his luck because he's seen the upside of turning minor career setbacks into better opportunities. After his 1995 layoff, he joined First Union National Bank, where he learned the data management and integration techniques that he brought to Digitas.

"I've been here before," he says. "It's not a matter of if [I get a job]. It's only a matter of when and where and who I affiliate with."

Mr. Gow is doing CRM consulting while he scouts for a permanent post. He's looking for more stability in his next job, considering consultancies and corporations to have less volatility than agencies. Despite his passion about the power and principles of CRM, he's more concerned about a predictable paycheck. "I feel like I've suffered a lot as an industry change agent," says the husband and father of two boys. "I feel like my family is more at risk, and that's a risk I'm less willing to take."

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